Fire broke out at Fraser Regional Correctional Centre Wednesday night, sending one correctional officer to emergency and causing more than a dozen others to be treated for smoke inhalation.
B.C. Government Employees Union spokesperson Dean Purdy said the fire started about 6 p.m. when two inmates in a segration cell set a mattress on fire in an attempt to get into the hallway to get at another inmate.
The segregation unit is where inmates go who are being disciplined for violating prison rules who are being charged internally.
“They started a fire by lighting a mattress on fire. All 19 inmates in the segration unit were evacuated out of their cells into the densely, smoke-filled hallway,” Purdy said.
“Correctional officers responded to the scene without breathing apparatus.”
Despite that, the guards were able to get control of the inmates, handcuff them and remove them from the segration unit.
Nineteen of the officers who responded were treated for smoke inhalation, suffering headaches, burning lungs and eyes.
In addition to one guard who was treated in hospital emergency, others were seeing doctors on Thursday.
Maple Ridge Fire Department however weren’t called out to the fire. If the prison staff can control the blaze and don’t call 911 the fire department wouldn’t know about it, said deputy fire chief Howard Exner.
“I would assume if it was a fire of consequence, we would be there.”
It’s another example of the violence that correctional officers face daily in the overcrowded prison, said Purdy, repeating his statement that the prison now holds 500 inmates, though it originally was built with capacity of about 254.
He didn’t have details yet about injuries to the inmates.
“We know that these type of incidents can happen and that violence is rampant at this jail and the other five maximum-security jails,” in B.C.
An auditor’s report from 2015, said Fraser Regional had the highest number of violent incidents in the BC Corrections system.
The new Solicitor General Mike Morris just toured Fraser Regional last week.